As usual, my email inbox is again bursting at the seams with all sorts of requests from readers, all over the world!
Foremost of all these requests, seems to be the desire to learn more about that enigmatic character whom I’ve talked about before here, namely the one and only Daido Moriyama (DM).
It is indeed very difficult to find out about him, aside of the little that is on the internet. DM has always been a kind of a secretive character, eschewing the limelight anytime he can. Nothing new there…many genuises of the world have that trait in them.
DM began trying his hand at photography in the late 60s, after a short spell of introspection, when he in turn wanted to become a sailor, comedian or painter. Perhaps it was his leaning towards the more artistic tendencies within him, that he chose photography.
Much has been said, and asked, about DM’s preference for a particular type of camera, but in essence, he has always insisted that the camera is immaterial; it is what you have going on inside your mind and in your eye that is what matters. Some will say that he is always seen walking around in the streets with a Ricoh camera in his hand. The only reason he chose the Ricoh was because it is one of the lightest, slimmest and eminently user-friendly cameras he has ever used. More importantly, it doesn’t attract attention from passersby when he is taking their shots, an advantage which I too have found myself, having used both film and digital versions. And that is true whether he is using a film version Ricoh Gr1 or it’s digital brother the GRD. All of his shots exhibited at the Tate Gallery were taken with a Gr1s using Tri-X film and enlarged to huge 1 metre wide size, which brought out the grainy and moody texture of the world famous film.
He has also been using a Nikon Coolpix S9100 for his colour work, which is almost the same as the Ricoh GRD, being easy to handle and use in the street.
He seems to prefer the area called Shinjuku, in Tokyo, which is as fertile a place for street photographers as can be. The place is home to the world’s busiest train station, as well as Golden Gai, a favoured haunt of musicians, artists, actors and other fringe media people, often to be found in it’s bars and clubs. The area also houses what is said to be the last hanamachi or geisha district called Kagurazaka. So it’s no wonder that DM has chosen this place as his muse!
Seeing DM at work is to see a master going through his paces, as he, and only he, sees fit. He will use many different methods to shoot his subjects; walking swiftly through the streets, shooting just as quickly as he walks, without even looking through the viewfinder. Somehow, it is as if he would rather not look at his subjects, preferring to relish that magic later at home in his studio, where he will go through each shot like a treasure hunter sifting through the soil in the hope of finding a valuable item.
Other times he will use his other favourite strategy, that of looking to the opposite direction at which he is shooting, to divert any attention from passerby…very clever indeed.
DM somehow manages to focus on things we tend to just walk by normally, a doorway, an empty bottle, a dog waiting for it’s master outside a shop and so on.
Many readers may be astounded to hear that although DM seems to be a whirlwind of energy when at work, he confesses to a whole litany of vices to which he sometimes is a victim. I was surprised to hear that he once spent a whole 7 years or so away from photography, time which he spent not working, but partaking in drug culture.
Just as surprising, he absolutely hates company executives, sometimes gives in to extreme laziness and abhors commercialisation of his work. Despite these small foibles, he comes through as a genuinely friendly and bubbly personality whenever he is reacting with the public during his work.
Whatever anyone may think about him, DM is undoubtably a niche player in a world where niches have already been discovered. And he continues exploiting his niche like no other living or dead man ever could. That is Daido Moriyama.